RENA Maritime New Zealand update (70)
Monday, 17 October 2011 7:00 a.m.
The focus of operations today continues to centre on the salvage effort aboard Rena with some good progress made overnight on pumping oil off the stricken ship.
MNZ Salvage Unit Head Bruce Anderson says 21 tonnes of oil was pumped from the vessel overnight onto theAwanuia, after pumping operations got underway about 6.30pm yesterday and continued successfully throughout the night. Pumping got underway after evacuation and operational safety plans were put in place.
"Considering that the oil is the consistency of marmite and has to be pushed through 150m of hose, this represents an excellent effort.
"Night time operations have given us additional lead time, particularly given the expected change in weather conditions forecast for later today.
"Every bit of oil that is removed from the damaged vessel reduces the risk of further oil spilling into the environment."
A salvage team worked through the night to pump oil from the ship, and will continue to work through the day as long as conditions safely allow.
"This is a hugely challenging and risky operation even in full daylight - these are incredibly brave and dedicated people who are working very hard to protect the beaches and coastline of the Bay of Plenty and the communities who use them."
Weather conditions this morning are excellent, with calm seas and no wind, though they are anticipated to change later today.
National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn says clean-up crews will continue to look for oil along the coastline today.
"We will be focusing on scientific monitoring and surveillance of further patches of oil that come ashore, and will continue to send teams out to pick up oil as needed.
Mr Quinn says people are urged not to collect or eat any shellfish from local beaches where oil has come ashore, as public health warnings remain in force. This advice remains in place even for beaches that were contaminated and which have now been cleaned and reopened.
Most beaches also remain closed. Limited access is available at the main beach at Mt Maunganui down to Leisure Island. There is no swimming at all beaches.
"We will be continuing to assess the state of local beaches, and if it is safe do so, with no threat to public health, we may look to re-open some beaches over the coming days.
"In the meantime, we ask people to please keep off any closed beaches and to continue to report any sign of fresh oil or affected wildlife to us."
Around 460 volunteers assisted yesterday with beach clean ups at Mount Maunganui, Papamoa, and Maketu, while a further 260 volunteers from Opotiki to East Cape have been trained and are ready to launch into action. A further 30 volunteers were also trained at Bowentown yesterday.
"The response from the people of the Bay of Plenty has been nothing short of amazing," Mr Quinn says. "As of this morning, almost 5,500 volunteer registrations have been received, which is fantastic."
There are three clean-up sessions planned for today, (Monday) - two at Papamoa (starting from the Papamoa Surf Club and Taylor Reserve) and one at Mount Maunganui (Clyde Street Beach Access). All start at 1.30pm.
Volunteer coordinators at the incident command centre are rostering volunteers so their assistance can be used effectively.
As of last night, 181 live birds were being treated at the Oiled Wildlife Recovery Centre. Three fur seals are also in care.
About 1,250 dead birds have been recovered to date.
Reminder: there is a community briefing in Whakatane at 6pm today. This is being held at the Whakatane High School.